By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Theme:
Community

Community

Saturday, May 9, 2020
Summary: Sunday, May 3 — Friday, May 9, 2020

How can the Center for Action and Contemplation continue to be of service, building on what God has already done with us? How can we offer something of further value that has authority and believability on its own? (Sunday)

We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others, especially those at the margins. (Monday)

If we believe in a Trinitarian God, then we must hold fast to the truth that God is community—a completely loving, mutually self-giving, endlessly generative relationship between equal partners. We are included in that community and so is everyone else. (Tuesday)

Once you see the basic truth . . . that we are all God’s children and therefore absolutely equal, the rest of it is just common sense. –Beatrice Bruteau (Wednesday)

The total social program that Jesus advocated was based on communion, friendship, distribution, and partnership. This contrasts with a social organization based on domination, exploitation, accumulation, and force. —Beatrice Bruteau (Thursday)

As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, or we can double down on the pursuit of accumulation and power, with no more than a return to business as usual. (Friday)

 

Practice: Ubuntu: I Am Because We Are

One place we might begin to prioritize community is with the spiritual traditions that supported and informed the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In her essay from the book Revives My Soul Again, author Diana L. Hayes explores the basis of King’s vision for the “Beloved Community”:

African American spirituality was forged in the fiery furnace of slavery in the United States. The ore was African in origin, in worldview, in culture and traditions. . . . There is no life without the community and there is no community without the active participation of all. As a well-known African proverb states: “I am because we are.” That is, unlike in Western society, it is not the individual but the community that is of critical importance. [Richard here: We’re seeing this value in action right now with individuals changing their habits, lives, and livelihoods at great personal cost for the sake of the global community.]

African spirituality is grounded in the very lives and activities of the African people. They live it, breathe it, walk it, sing it, and dance it. There is no life without religion, the interconnection of all people, all created things, and God: . . . “Relationships among all elements of creation . . . are the essence of African spirituality, because Africans believe that only through harmonious relationships is cosmic existence possible and its vital force preserved.”. . . [1]

An extension of this understanding can be found in that of Ubuntu (other names are used by different African peoples). . . . “A person with Ubuntu (full humanity) is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good.”. . . [2] What Ubuntu underscores is “‘the vital importance of mutual recognition and respect complemented by mutual care and sharing in the construction of human relations.’ [3] Ubuntu is manifested in self-giving and readiness to cooperate and communicate with others.” [4]

This understanding . . . of full humanity lies at the heart of [Dr. Martin Luther] King’s efforts to develop the Beloved Community, which he saw as that “period of social harmony and universal brotherhood that would follow the current social struggle.” [5] At that time, blacks and whites would be reconciled and able to walk together as a family of brothers and sisters without racial strife or disharmony.

The wisdom of Ubuntu, this reminder that “I am because you are,” seems particularly important for our times, especially in the Western world. Even before social distancing began, loneliness—and the anxiety and depression that often accompany it—had reached epidemic proportions and I imagine those numbers will only increase with so many people being further isolated by recent circumstances. I hope and pray that God, who is relationship itself, will not let us forget that we belong to each other.

References:
[1] Laurenti Magesa, What Is Not Sacred?: African Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2013), 195. As cited by Hayes, 45.

[2] Desmond Mpilo Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (Doubleday: 1999), 31.

[3] Mogobe B. Ramose, “The Ethics of Ubuntu,” The African Philosophy Reader: A Text with Readings, eds. P. H. Coetzee and A. P. J. Roux, 2nd ed. (Routledge: 2003), 329.

[4] Magesa, What Is Not Sacred?, 13.

[5] Richard Lischer, The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word That Moved America (Oxford University Press: 1995), 234.

Diana L. Hayes, “A Great Cloud of Witnesses: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Roots in the African American Religious and Spiritual Traditions,” Revives My Soul Again: The Spirituality of Martin Luther King Jr., eds. Lewis V. Baldwin and Victor Anderson (Fortress Press: 2018), 43, 44–46.

For Further Study:
Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis Books: 2005).

Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, 2nd ed. (Augsburg Fortress: 2017).

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016).

Richard Rohr, Simplicity (Crossroad Publishing: 1991).

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry

Community

The Beloved Community
Friday, May 8, 2020

A contemplative person is someone who knows that they don’t know everything and trusts that they are being held by something much larger, wiser, and more loving than themselves. It is these very qualities that enable them to act on behalf of others and communities in need. CAC faculty member Barbara Holmes offers some insights as to how and why this is true, particularly in moments of crisis:

The world is the cloister of the contemplative. There is no escape. Always the quest for justice draws one deeply into the heart of God. In this sacred interiority, contemplation becomes the language of prayer and the impetus for prophetic proclamation and action.

Contemplation plugs the supplicant into the catalytic center of God’s Spirit, into the divine power that permeates every aspect of life. In this space, there are no false dichotomies, no divisions between the sacred and the secular. . . .  Through acts of contemplation, individuals and congregations enter the liminal space where the impossible becomes possible.

A community is not always an intentional gathering . . . sometimes communities form because unpredictable events and circumstances draw people into shared life intersections. . . . Communities form when ego-focused concerns recede in favor of shared agendas and a more universal identity. These relationships need only hold together briefly before transitioning into other forms; however, while they are intact, all concerned are aware of the linkages of interior resolve that are at work.

As with all great social justice movements, there came a time [in the Civil Rights Movement] when worship practices and communal resolve coalesced, and an interfaith, interdenominational, interracial community formed. The commonality for this dissenting community was the willingness to resist the power of apartheid in the Americas with their bodies.

The formation of community during the Civil Rights Movement was the quintessential coming-of-age story for Africana people. During a particular time in history, nonviolent initiatives seeded with contemplative worship practices became acts of public theology and activism. Activism and contemplation are not functional opposites. Rather, contemplation is at its heart a reflective activity that is always seeking the spiritual balance between individual piety and communal justice-seeking.

Who could have predicted that America’s apartheid would fall as decisively as the walls of Jericho, when the people marched around the bastions of power carrying little more than their faith and resolve? How audacious it is to take what is given—the remnants of a chattel community, the vague memories of mother Africa, and a desperate need to be free—and translate those wisps into a multicultural, multivalent liberative vision of community. The idea of a beloved community emerged from the deeply contemplative activities of a besieged people.

In the midst of the social distancing necessitated by this pandemic, people have nevertheless come together in creative and loving ways. Some have called this virus a massive “trigger event” with the potential to change everything. As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, or we can double down on the pursuit of accumulation and power, with no more than a return to business as usual.

Reference:
Adapted from Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, 2nd ed. (Augsburg Fortress: 2017), 111­–114, 119.

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry

Community

Jesus’ Social Program
Thursday, May 7, 2020

Jesus’ experience of divine kinship, which Beatrice Bruteau described yesterday, naturally led to the creation of equitable community. His community was very different than the larger society in which he lived—and the individualistic, largely unfettered capitalist society in which we live today. In fact, Jesus’ community looks very similar to networks of mutual aid which are springing up to help one another during this global pandemic. In the midst of crisis, people often begin to rely on others morewhether neighbors, local organizations, or even online communitiesfor physical, emotional, and psychological support. By giving what we can and receiving what we need, we build relationships that last. Bruteau continues:

The total social program that Jesus advocated was based on communion, friendship, distribution, and partnership. This contrasts with a social organization based on domination, exploitation, accumulation, and force. His program’s central principle is equality, just as the contrasting paradigm’s principle is inequality. The latter is vertically ordered by “power over.” The former is horizontally ordered by sharing and mutual care. Even what might have been a vertical dimension—the power of God over all—is developed [through Jesus] in a horizontal way by the distributed Spirit indwelling each social entity (individual, family, local community, the whole people). This distribution of the God-expressing Spirit implies that people must be in active partnership with God at all points.

This is the “covenant” idea: contribution, responsibility, and care work both ways, in the context of equality and mutual respect. There is no “social status.” . . .  All persons are respected equally, while particular gifts and expertise organize collective activity appropriately for the benefit of all. The people are committed to one another and pledge to care for the other as one cares for oneself. “Benefit of all” is a real incentive, a strong motivator. . . .

These ideas and their accompanying feelings . . . cannot be imposed on people. They have to emerge in a natural and spontaneous way. The thesis is that all people have such feelings, at least the propensity for them, and vaguely the desire to let them surface and operate, but they are discouraged from showing and fulfilling them by [dominant] social systems. . . . Occasionally individuals appear who have broken free from the prevailing culture and who can give opportunity to others to be free. If they can come together, they can form a community that welcomes newcomers and grows. Their cooperative lifestyle makes for stronger community unity than the selfishness, suspicion, competition, and hostility of the lifestyle they have left behind.

The type of community that Beatrice Bruteau describes is an essential part of the Jesus “program.” It flows naturally from the recognition of God’s presence within each and every individual and all of creation. How could we, who have God’s Spirit within us, ever rob, cheat, oppress, or harm others, within whom the Spirit also dwells?

Reference:
Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis Books: 2005), 219–220.

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry

Community

A Community for All
Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Jesus’ intimacy with the nature of God as relationship inspired him to redefine the boundaries of family and tribe. Jesus extended kinship to everyone. Author and scholar Beatrice Bruteau (1930–2014) looks to Jesus for a fundamental understanding of what it means to be Christian community:

Jesus had a fundamental vision—faith that all people [emphasis mine] are “children of God.” This is the theological perspective of his “program,” on which everything else rests. I am supposing that he took this seriously, more or less literally, . . . teaching that each person has an uncreated soul that is actually a continuation of the Divine Life itself. When he met a person, therefore, he really believed that God was somehow present in that person, so he looked for that presence through all the overlying contradictions to it, until he found it. Then he addressed himself to that point in the person. As the Hindus also say, the divine in him saluted the divine in the other. When anyone does that, it tends to awaken the divine in the other, who is thus invited to speak from that place in return. [Notice the mutuality! It begins with one person’s generous gaze, which is then returned in kind.] This is the sort of thing we will need to accustom ourselves to doing if we are to succeed in developing the further levels of the [Jesus] program. . . .

[One of the images of] Jesus’ friendship community in which there are no lords or servants . . . was the family and the extended kinship [network]. . . . There are no sexual, racial, or historical barriers to membership in this family. Its intention is to include everyone. But this does not mean that it has no structure, no principles, no operating dynamic. It has these with great clarity, especially since they are all simple and even obvious, once the basic principle of social and personal equality has been seen and accepted. . . .

Once you see the basic truth, he might insist, that we are all God’s children and therefore absolutely equal, the rest of it is just common sense. You don’t need a divine teacher to spell it out for you, much less to set up a new battery of regulations and sanctions. You can make all the deductions and applications yourself and you will live by them because you see the truth and genuinely want to live that way.

Richard again: I believe most Christians have good intentions to follow Jesus’ example, but they are quickly overrun by the “me-first” norms of mainstream culture. In moments of crisis, however, we seem to tap into something deeper and truer. We remember our kinship with one another. In the first weeks of the pandemic, I heard media reports of hoarding and price gouging, but I have heard far more stories of generosity, courage, compassion, and sacrifice for the sake of others. We do not all have the same gifts, but many seem to be giving their very best.

Reference:
Beatrice Bruteau, The Holy Thursday Revolution (Orbis Books: 2005), 210, 220.

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry

Community

The Foundation of Community
Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A divine foundation of relationship is what all religion, spirituality, and perhaps even politics, is aiming for. The Trinity offers us this precise gift—a grounded connection with God, self, others, and the world. This ancient doctrine dared to affirm that God is relationship itself. The way of Jesus therefore is an invitation to a way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in God. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. While we may not always recognize it, we are all together in a web of mutual interdependence. When we recognize it on a spiritual level, we call it love.

The 12th-century mystic Richard of St. Victor (1123–1173) wrote about the Trinity as a mutual, loving companionship of friends—a community, if you will. In my book The Divine Dance, I summarized some of his thinking: For God to be good, God can be one. For God to be loving, God has to be two, because love is always a relationship. But for God to share “excellent joy” and “delight” God has to be three, because supreme happiness is when two persons share their common delight in a third something—together. [1] All we need to do is witness a couple after the birth of their new baby, and we know this is true.

The people I have loved with great abandon and freedom were not just the people who loved me, but people who loved what I loved. People who cared about community, the Gospel, the poor, justice, honesty—this is where the flow was easy, natural, and life-giving. Two people excited about the same thing are the beginning of almost everything new, creative, and risky in our world. Surely this is what Jesus meant by his first and most basic definition of church as “two or three gathered” (Matthew 18:20).

A community inspired by the Trinity will be a community of people who treat each other as subjects and not objects. Just as the persons of the Trinity know and love one another, from God’s side we are always known and loved subject to subject. God and the human person must know one another center to center, subject to subject, and never subject to object. This is why there is no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality. This has the power to change all relationships: in marriage, in culture, and even in international relations.

If we believe in a Trinitarian God, then we must hold fast to the truth that God is community—a completely loving, mutually self-giving, endlessly generative relationship between equal partners. We are included in that community and so is everyone else! A Trinitarian image of God should have changed our politics, our gender relationships, all power differentials, and friendship itself. But most of Christian history was never practically Trinitarian.

References:
[1] Richard of St. Victor, The Trinity, book III, chapters 14–15. See Richard of St. Victor: The Twelve Patriarchs; The Mystical Ark; Book Three of the Trinity, trans. Grover A. Zinn (Paulist Press: 1979), 387–389.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 39–40, 45–47, 78, 96, 98–99.

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry

Community

Action and Community
Monday, May 4, 2020

I truly believe that the Gospel calls the whole world to gather into small communities of basic shared values. But community is an art form, and there are obviously many possible ways of coming together, even as much of the world shelters in place. Who would have thought that creating physical distance from others would be an authentic way to care for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable? Here at the Center, our staff members join together daily to share online contemplative prayer. Many of them are creating some form of contemplative space in their own homes—often in the midst of children and household jobs. Then there are the generous individuals building networks of support for people who need help by cooking and delivering meals for hospital staff and essential workers, offering free mental health and spiritual direction services, volunteering for food pantries, and more.

Over the years, I have met many people who live in monasteries but who don’t have actual capacity for community life; they’re too imprisoned in themselves. And, at the same time, I know religious sisters who live alone in apartments but are totally community-oriented, bound up and interconnected with the lives of many people. The secret to community lies in the way we let other people get through to us and the way we move out of ourselves. This is, of course, the mystery of spirituality, of vulnerability, and powerlessness. When a person on a serious inner journey to their own vulnerability is also in immediate contact with the vulnerable of the world, then some form of community will almost always result.

Without an interior life and a love of justice, most communities just serve themselves. We who live in the United States have to look out for this in particular. We’re rather narcissistic as individuals and as a society, always looking out for “Number One,” whether it’s our self, our child, our church, our race, or our political party. But that is clearly not the kind of community Jesus created! He was always moving beyond the boundaries of his own kinship circles.

When we named the “Center for Action and Contemplation,” we deliberately put action first. We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others, especially those at the margins. At one time this type of service was mostly an act of faith, but now we have evidence to back it up: serving others is a healing balm to our own souls. [1] Faith and science support each other on this, as does Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous. [2] We do not fully have it until we hand it on to others.

References:
[1] See https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428.

[2] Step 12 of the Twelve Steps: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Simplicity (Crossroad Publishing: 1991), 38, 41, 50–51.

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry

Community

A Community in Transition
Sunday, May 3, 2020

Over the past few years, the Center for Action and Contemplation has been in a time of significant transition. For thirty-two years, CAC staff and volunteers have fostered the development of a global community while wonderfully supporting, amplifying, and communicating my preaching and teaching around the world. We’ve done this through conferences, retreats, work internships, the bookstore, our literary journal Oneing, the Mendicant newsletter, the Living School, podcasts, online courses, and of course, these daily meditations.

I must honestly say that few priests or ministers have such a team of partners and collaborators in their ministry and work. They make me look much better than I am in real life! I did nothing to deserve this. It still surprises me every day.

As I happily enter my final years, the CAC continues to grow. We realize it is our responsibility to offer something broader and beyond Richard Rohr—an organization that does not depend on me for its credibility. We have been moving in this direction for some years now, sincerely asking, “How can the CAC continue to be of service, building on what God has already done with us? How can we offer something of further value that has authority and believability on its own?”

Furthermore, we feel called to do this in what many have described as a time of major regression, denial of the past, and even collapse! This is no exaggeration; we need only look at the evidence provided by this global pandemic, the state of the planet, and our worldwide politics of despair. We can track the abandonment of many religious traditions, especially Western Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular due to the loss of moral authority through the pedophilia crisis, as well as the continued exclusion of women and the LGBTQ community as full partners in many denominations. Historians will probably remark on this era’s challenges to legitimate claims to truth.

The question we are asking now is, “How can a small but strong foundation of wisdom teachers—CAC core faculty and others—be of service to the world and to Love?” At the CAC, we do not want to drop into scarcity mode, a reactive position, or the politics of despair.

I’m convinced of and committed to the Christian contemplative tradition as the way through and beyond this era. We hope you consider yourself part of the CAC community and will join us in a reformation that is rising from the margins of our institutions and society. This reformation is nonviolent, beyond the usual binary arguments, and is transforming human consciousness and communities at both the conscious and unconscious levels. Moving forward, what else will change our politics and our religions?

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “When All is Adrift,” the Mendicant, vol. 10 no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), 1, 5.

Image credit: Dressing for the Carnival (Detail), Winslow Homer, 1877, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We learn and are healed by committing ourselves to others. —Richard Rohr
Read Full Entry
FacebookTwitterEmailPrint